Writing in Sociology at Queens College

The Conceptual Outline


ome people do not like to work with a traditional outline. This is another option that might work for you. Try drawing a picture of your paper. In this drawing I have used the circles to represent my sources, the rectangles to represent the main themes in the paper, and the triangle to represent the conclusion.

Conceptual Outline
  1. Do you have enough sources (circles) to support your main themes (rectangles)?
    In this case one of my rectangles only has one circle attached to it. If that theme is important, I may want to find more sources on that topic.
  2. Are all of your sources related to a theme in your paper?
    In this case one of my circles is not connected to any of the ideas in the paper. That means I should get rid of that source. It is not related to the main themes.
  3. Do the main themes connect to each other?
    In this case you can see that one of my themes is strongly connected to the other two themes and there is a weak connection between two themes. It is not necessary for all of the themes to connect, but there must be sufficient connections for the paper to make sense - and all of the themes should contribute to the conclusion. If you find that you have a theme that is not related to any of the others, you may want to get rid of it. If you decide that you have a good reason for keeping the theme in the paper, make sure that the reason is clear to your reader.